4 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started GTD

4 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started GTD
wrote this on April 6, 2012
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* GTD® is a registered trademark of the David Allen Company. IQTELL is not affiliated with the David Allen Company.

I first dabbled in Getting Things Done (GTD) – David Allen’s book about productivity during my college years; I was looking for a way to tackle stress from exams, long hours in front of my desk and noisy classrooms effectively.  (It obviously came in handy with my current position as well…but that was just fate I suppose…).    Little did I know when I first received the book in the mail that it would have such an impact on the way I do things and I don’t only mean the way I work!

I read the book, tried a few techniques and realized its potential.  The problem was that because I had a lot of distractions, I couldn’t muster the required discipline to practice what David preached and I fell off the wagon quite a bit.

Three years ago I grabbed the book again. It was a stressful period and I decided that I was going to try to take on the book again, and this time it stuck.  GTD helped me a lot in terms of dealing with stress and the potential for stress is in everything we do.  (It came in handy when I joined IQTELL two years later…fate leading the way again…or did I join IQTELL because of GTD…?)

The methods described in the book can be applied to everything you do, effectively neutralizing stress and organizing your life.  It took quite a while before the habit caught on, but once it did, it became part of my life.

Lately, I started to think about all the things I could have done better if I would have adopted GTD properly during college, and what would I tell my past self? My conclusions are listed below…

#1 Always be Moving (to the next action)

Getting stuck on a task prevents you from reaching goals, deadlines and generally getting other things done. If you can’t do something now, do it later, put it on a maybe list or delegate it to someone else…make sure that the actions you’re currently doing are always getting you closer to the next action.

Maybe if I had that in mind, I would have continued to monitor and perfect my system until it would finally stick.

#2 Reviewing is everything

I always thought that reviewing your lists on a regular basis is a waste of time.  Why should I review it if I can do something more tangible? I felt the method produced meaningless review tasks which required time that I wasn’t willing to invest.

Reviewing your lists gives you confidence in the system. Without it you will be lost.

4 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started GTD with IQTELL

#3 It’s better to be a minimalist

When you need to do an action, you can find yourself delaying by finding other things that may affect this action.  For example, if you’d like to start running, do you need new shoes? Is it going to rain? Have I eaten yet? Should I run on the road or the beach? The more “hurdles” you place on your way to that action, the more likely you’ll never get it done.  Just get out of the house, and start running.

Don’t be all over the place, concentrate and remove obstacles that might steal your attention from the task at hand.  When you work, work in one place that concentrates all your tasks, keep in mind that the less you complicate the task…the faster it’ll get done.

Take for example, implementing GTD.  The simple and most effective way is to read the book and apply its principles.  Don’t’ get distracted by reading thousands of opinions and approaches to GTD.

#4 Once you’re on the GTD bandwagon, it becomes addictive.

Whether you like it or not, GTD is going to be a part of everything you do, you’re going to plan your day according to predefined lists and goals, you’re going to review every action you did in order to make sure that it was done properly and that next time you’ll do it better…pretty soon you’re going to feel you lost the spontaneous part of your life.

It’s important that you disconnect from the GTD way of thinking and doing when you’re spending time with your family and friends, it’s just healthier in my opinion.

“Younger me” was quite the rebel and I’m not sure he’d listen to “Older me” telling him to grab the book and start practicing.  I guess it’s a process that you go through.  The way I work today grew on me and it took quite a while until I was able to muster the level of discipline needed to make my system functional.

So don’t look back, if you fell off the wagon, grab the book and start getting things done!

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4 responses to “4 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started GTD”

  1. Anonymous says:

    For me the biggest part of #GTD was constantly reminding myself to take some action on everything. Just the simple act of saying no or agreeing that I do not need to act on ssomething really became freeing to me. They other thing that helped me to really get things under control was the two minute rule.

    • The two minutes rule is one of those things that make total sense and makes you wonder how come you haven’t thought about it before reading GTD…Simple in essence yet Hugh in impact.

      Also, saying no was an “inner taboo” for me, undefined decision cycles wasted Hugh chunks of my time.

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